Tips on Getting Theater Ticket Discounts

You want to have fun. You don’t want to go broke. We get that.

In our listings of shows, we always try to give you the “Top” or worst-case price, to give you a sense of the maximum you might pay to see the show.  In almost all cases, what you really pay should be an improvement on that. You can beat the Top price and have a nice night of theater on the cheap in a number of ways: here are the best ones.

  1.  WHO YOU ARE.  First, are you eligible for a deal just by being you?  And being willing to do your transaction in person or a phone call, rather than the interwebs?

    Almost any theater we’re sending you to will offer discounts for youth. Believe it or don’t, if you’re under 30, your driver’s license is a dollars-off card for most theaters in town.

    Similarly, many theaters offer discounts to active duty military and veterans. Being invaded would really screw with a theater’s rehearsal schedules, so it’s the least they can do.

  2. WHERE YOU BUY.  No matter who you are, where you buy your tickets can also save you a bunch of money, and these tips work well and offer half-price seats to many of the shows we recommend. There aren’t always many seats available, they are rarely for sale more than a couple of weeks in advance of the show date, and sometimes the discounted seats are pretty far from front and center; but here’s a little secret. At most of the theaters in DC, every seat is good. If you have some time to plan ahead, you can usually save a lot using these sites.

    You’ll have to create a free account to use the Goldstar site. Both sites also have regular email messages you can subscribe to that tell you about upcoming deals, and they list lots of things to do besides plays, that are likely to make your time in DC more fun.

  3. WHEN YOU GO.  When you see a show can also keep some dollars in your hands.Generally, Friday and Saturday night tickets are pricier than other night performances. Wednesday or Thursday night performances are more affordable.
    If you attend a show at one of its earlier performances, you may be in what is called a preview performance. This mostly means you’re seeing the show before it has been reviewed, and the theater rewards your daring by knocking a chunk off the ticket price. An increasing number of theaters in town do Pay What You Will pricing during previews, meaning it’s literally up to you how much you pay and even $2 will get you in.
  4. LAST-MINUTE DEALS.  Finally, if you’re willing to risk not being able to get in to a popular show, most theaters offer what are called Rush Tickets at a steep discount shortly before the show starts (“shortly” can mean only one hour before, or as many as five or six hours before).  Rush Tickets at Forum Theatre in Silver Spring are name-your-price, so you can pay as little as $2 and see the show, for any performance.  At pretty much all theaters that have Rush Ticket prices, even if the performance is officially sold out, the box office will put you on a waiting list and charge you the discount if you get in [ask first]. There are often people who paid for very nice seats but don’t show up, and you could wind up in their seats if you get lucky. If you don’t get in to the show, you can always skip the entertainment and go directly to the bar we recommend for afterwards, so that’s hardly a total loss of a Great Evening.

Last but not least, we would be failing at our jobs if we didn’t let you know our best secret for inexpensive tickets: skip the big theaters in favor of the small ones.  In every edition of Just the Ticket we include Great Evenings with shows that have Top ticket prices of less than $30, often in interesting and offbeat venues.  We’ve done the legwork to make sure they are in places that are easy to get to and have good dining and drinking options nearby.  And we give you shows that have a high likelihood of entertainment and enjoyment.  DC’s secret weapon as a theater town is that exceptional work is happening at all price levels, so if you don’t normally give small theater companies a look, we hope you’ll use the guide as a way to find some lesser-known, bargain gems.

Please let us know if you enjoy some savings after reading this post either by commenting below or writing to us at

Gallery Place Neighborhood Overview

Business suits stride by cargo pants to the rhythm of bucket drums amidst a swirl of activity.  Daytimes bring tourists, office workers, shoppers and neighborhood residents, while evenings bring sports fans, culture vultures and gourmands.  Whether day or night, come to the Gallery Place neighborhood to be at the nexus of local, national and international Washington. You’ll be joining the fun and people-watching all of the visitors, residents and workers buzz up and down the sidewalk.

“Gallery Place” is named for the three art museums that are part of the neighborhood, with the primary axis running along 7th St NW.

If you’re headed to Gallery Place for a Great Evening, you can ease the transition from a day of touring by putting one of the museums here on your late afternoon to-do list and therefore have only a short walk to supper and the rest of your fun.

To the north, between F & G Sts NW, sits the stately building that houses two museums: the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, both full of fascinating stuff with lots of timely, of-the-moment exhibits.  The marvelous interior courtyard is a wonderful rest stop for the active visitor, with its year-round fountains and covered atrium. Four blocks to the south at Constitution Ave NW is the National Gallery of Art with its companion sculpture garden. A world class art collection shelters in two buildings, one neo-classical and the other post-modern, while giant sculptures grace a fenced enclosure around either a fountain or an ice rink depending on the season. Well worth a few hours browsing during daytime hours.  And, like most museums in Washington, all three of these are entirely free.

The National Archives is the other major national museum in the neighborhood, at Pennsylvania Ave and 7th Streets NW. In addition to serving as the almost sacred home for important documents in our nation’s founding, a small exhibition space usually has some engaging show on about a facet of American history.

Other similar attractions in this museum-rich neighborhood charge a fee:  the Newseum and the Spy Museum.  We would recommend either one, with the Spy Museum being particularly worth the cost of admission for families and lovers of Disney-type attractions; the Newseum is more hit-or-miss especially given the steep price tag.

In between all of these museums are three major theaters – Woolly Mammoth’s below-ground ground jewel box and the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s two stages, the Harman and the Lansburgh – which often figure in editions of Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. and in evening-out info on this website.

Celebrity chef Jose Andres holds a lot of territory in these blocks with Jaleo, China Chilcano, Zaytinya and Oyamel all dishing up delicious meals. We would point you to any of these for a lively, tasty dining experience, along with Graffiato or Rasika.  Any of these places will require both a reasonable-sized wallet and probably an advance reservation:  save a lot of cash and time at fast-casual choices Protein Bar, Teaism or Merzi.  Sweet teeth can be satisfied with the counter service at Pitango Gelato, Bakers and Baristas, or Red Velvet Cupcake. Thirsty travelers can hydrate at the District Chophouse, a brew pub whose bourbon barrel aged stout is a special treat, or Proof, an above-average (if perhaps too loud) wine bar.

If you’re surrounded by Capitols or Wizards jerseys, you can feel sure there’s a game on at the expansive Verizon Center. If you’re surrounded by families with kids in tow, then there’s probably a circus or Disney on Ice filling the enormous arena.

Two Metro stations serve the neighborhood, Archives/Navy Memorial to the south has Green and Yellow line trains while Gallery Place/Chinatown, with entrances in several spots in the neighborhood, has Green, Yellow and Red Line service.

Oh, and don’t be fooled by the “Chinatown” moniker — though there is a substantial and attractive Chinese-style “Friendship Archway” at 7th and H Streets NW, locals dismissively refer to this area as “China Block” (since it is hardly large enough to merit “town”), and pretty much none of the Chinese restaurants here are better or more interesting than what you’ll find in a strip mall closer to home.

Insider tip: If you’re yearning for some quiet moments, there are benches along a pretty pedestrian area just north of the Navy Memorial proper that are a great place to take a load off for a while and watch the passing scene, perhaps with a cup of tea from nearby Teaism or a pastry from Paul’s French patisserie.

This is the first in a series of posts in which we’ll provide a little more detail and context about the neighborhoods we send you to for Great Evenings Out. Please let us know if you’ve discovered anything in Gallery Place we should have mentioned either by commenting below or writing to us at

Have a Great Evening Out this Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer for the DC region. In these waning days of May, it finally seems safe to pack away coats and sweaters for the season, and for locals we are beyond delighted that the weather, which has been wet for weeks, promises to be balmy and dry. Will you be visiting our city for the long weekend, or looking for new ways to explore Washington as a local?  Here we highlight the opportunities for some delight-filled Great Evenings Out this weekend.

Looking back at our ebook, Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC , we found four great evenings that will be on offer this weekend.

Derring-do Below Ground can stimulate you with sangria and swordplay on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in Crystal City, just outside the Nation’s Capital. Nelson Pressley of the Washington Post says of The Man in the Iron Mask , the very physical play at the center of the evening:

“The always-superb fights are accompanied by unexpectedly gripping scenes of high melodrama and even flickers of camp; as much as anything yet from Synetic, this has the texture of a good old-fashioned movie.”

A Playful Evening challenges your team to free a captive actor Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Happy Hour performs at 7 or 9 PM each of these evenings, giving you and your friends plenty of dining-time options. The roof deck is open for the season at El Centro DF, a taste of one capital city, Mexico City, in another. Specialty tacos include lamb skirt steak and squash blossom. As for the show: Team work is everything as you race against both the clock and the opposing team. Insider tip, as we’ve had a chance to see and enjoy this show now: work out a system around your table of fellow interactive audience members to choose ideas to and agree on them. Err quickly and learn from your errors rather than debating till you think you have the perfect solution. Success is sweet, but you will also enjoy watching your less effective ideas fail in this fun video-game-brought-to-life. [And the photo accompanying this article is of Stephanie Tomiko and Robert Bowen Smith in the show. (Photo: Tony Hitchcock)]

Drink, Drink, and Be Merry will make you laugh, sing, choke up, and dodge fight scenes happening inches from you on Thursday and Saturday nights, and take you into one of DC’s truly local-flavor neighborhoods, Petworth. Merry Death of Robin Hood performs at 9 PM, so plenty of time for a delicious meal beforehand. We shared this evening with friends last Thursday and it is an excellent chance to hang out as well as enjoy some silly, and also moving, theater. Chez Billy is in fine form for your French-bistro dinner. DC Reynolds has some great craft beers on draft. Get your reservation and tickets right now if you’re shooting for Thursday!

French Bistro and Pakistani-American Drama, the final Great Evening of our Spring edition, is new to the round-up as the show at Round House is just opening this weekend. It is yours to discover on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening. Here is the video teaser:

Any one of these would be a memorable addition to your Memorial Day Weekend. As ever, please let us know what you get up to by commenting on this post or writing to us at

The Details

Great Evening in Crystal City, Va.: Derring-do below ground

Dinner: Jaleo 2250 Crystal Dr, Arlington, VA 22202 (703) 413-8181

Show: Synetic Theater’s The Man in the Iron Mask plays Wed-Sat, May 11 – Jun 19. Top ticket price $50. 1800 South Bell Street, Crystal City, VA 22202. Box office: 866-811-4111,

Drinks: Bell 20 Tavern 1999 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Arlington, VA 22202

Great Evening in the U St Corridor: A playful evening

Dinner: El Centro 1819 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (202) 328-3131

Show: Spooky Action Theatre’s Happy Hour 1810 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 [yes, it is in a church]. Box office: 202-248-0301,

Drinks: Tico 1926 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Great Evening in Petworth: Drink, Drink and be merry

Dinner: Chez Billy 3815 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011. (202) 506-2080

Show: LIVEartDC’s The Merry Death of Robin Hood performs Thurs and Sat, May 19 – June 11. Top ticket price $20. LIVEartDC at DC Reynolds 3628 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010 Box office:

Drinks: Stay at DC Reynolds for drinks after.

Great Evening in Bethesda: French Bistro and Pakistani-American Drama

Dinner: Mon Ami Gabi Bethesda Row, 7239 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814 (301) 654-1234

Show: Round House Theatre’s The Who and The What 4545 East-West Highway Bethesda, MD. Box office 240.644.1100. Web:

Drinks: The Barking Dog 4723 Elm St, Bethesda, MD 20814


New Dining Options for Your Great Evening Out

The Washington Post has one of the country’s best restaurant critics in Tom Sietsema, and a city with as many great restaurants as we have keeps him active.

Sietsema has recently released his spring 2016 dining guide. Our mouths are watering as we read it over, looking for treasures to bring you the best dining options for your great evenings out. Reflecting all the exciting dining action here in the nation’s capital, he both picks 10 new favorites and goes on to revisit and reevaluate some stalwarts of the dining scene. Here are some highlights that are likely to show up in future editions of Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. We have tended to find his reviews pretty accurate.

Three of the newcomers look promising both from Sietsema’s review, and the location in great, accessible DC neighborhoods. We look forward to the field work of checking them out for you.

Kinship (1015 Seventh St. NW is a pleasant walk very close to the Gallery Place entertainment district. The food is reportedly inventive and delicious. The menu is organized creatively by what inspired the chef to include a particular dish, whether something from personal history, a technique he was eager explore, or an ingredient that was particularly good while the menu was being assembled. Tom says dining here feels like attending a wonderful dinner party in the home of a friend.

A few blocks away and most convenient for a show by Washington Stage Guild, The Dabney (122 Blagden Alley NW anchors a recent outburst of dining and drinking establishments in this location. This luxurious courtyard in the middle of a block was full of crumbling former industrial buildings just a few years ago, and still hides away from most visitors, but you’ll have no problem finding it with our Insider tip and your Google Map app. Now it sparkles, and according to Tom nowhere more so than inside The Dabney. The menu here is dedicated to regional food. The short, new-every-day menu for last night was rich with ingredients we saw at our farmer’s market last Sunday. There’s also a charming cocktail bar next door, The Columbia Room, for which we can already vouch — great service and atmosphere, and inventive drinks.  Your only issue in Blagden Alley is going to be getting a table, so if you’re visiting town, book your table now.

Nazca Mochica (1633 P St. NW in Dupont Circle is really two Peruvian restaurants in one, a full menu restaurant above and a Pisco and Cebiche bar below. Tom praises the tastiness of the food, the appealing nature of the interior design, and the sense of occasion created as your server adds the last touches to your dishes before your eyes at the table. That’s it, we’re checking this place out tonight!

Fiola (601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Gallery Place isn’t new, and being reminded of it in Tom’s revisit made us smack our heads that we hadn’t recommended it to you until now. It’s a short stroll to Woolly Mammoth Theatre and the Lansburgh, and we have had delightful pre-show meals here ourselves. Tom reports it as improved even from its previously high standards. The cuisine is elevated Italian. The service makes you feel like a visiting dignitary. Check it out!

To our fellow locals – please share in the comments below your impressions of any of these restaurants or anything else from the guide we should have our sights on or write to us at

Great Evenings This Week and Next in DC

A lovely spring season is ticking away here in the capital region. The cherry blossoms are long blown away, and the May flowers are in bloom. We are almost half way through the time covered by the Apr – Jun 16 edition of our Kindle e-bookJust the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC.  Three of the great evenings feature shows that are onstage for just another weekend or two, and another three feature shows that debuted last weekend. This is a great time to shine a little light on these perishable pleasures.

Continuing for one or two more weekends are Journey to the West, Disgraced, and Body of an American.

We saw Journey to the West and can give it a ringing endorsement. As is always the case with this theater company, the show has enchantingly beautiful costumes, set, music, and cast members. The artful and acrobatic maneuvers of Dallas Tolentino as the Monkey King are breathtaking. Even if you can’t make it to a performance, you owe it to yourself to visit their website just to enjoy the production photos. It really is a feast for the senses from start to finish, and we’ve bookended it with excellent food and drink selections that make your visit to the 14th Street/U Street entertainment corridor one to remember.

Coming up in the next few days are cool new shows The Man in the Iron Mask, Happy Hour, and The Merry Death of Robin Hood.

We were able to attend a preview event for Happy Hour, giving us a chance to share a bit of Insider scoop to set the stage for this very unique evening of theater. The show is just one hour and is performed for an audience of only 16, paired into two teams of eight each. In a twist on the Escape Room theme, each team guides an actor trapped in a locked room who you see on video and control through a clever computer interface.  The actor interprets your commands and gives entertaining feedback as to his or her next steps. Everyone at the preview had a terrific time, and it is lively and a bit silly and definitely fun. The show performs at 7 pm and 9 pm each evening it is onstage, giving you a lot of opportunities to see it and also to have a great time before or after in one of the nearby restaurants and bars we’ve identified for you.

Don’t let spring get away from you without experiencing at least one of these Great Evenings Out, and as always, please let us know about your experiences either by commenting on this post or writing to us at

Great Evening in the U Street Corridor: A long trip without too many steps

Dinner: Tico 1926 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (202) 319-1400

Show: Constellation’s Journey to the West. Performs Thu-Sat Apr 21 – May 22. Top ticket price $53. At Source Theater 1835 14th Street NW Washington D.C. 20009 Box office: 202-204-7741,

Drinks: Bar Pilar 1833 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Great Evening at the SW Waterfront: International dining and entertainment

Dinner: Oyamel   401 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004 202.628.1005

Show: Arena Stage’s Disgraced performs Tues-Sat Apr 22 – May 29. Top ticket price $100. 1101 6th St SW, Washington, DC 20024 Box Office: 202-488-3300,

Drinks: Have a drink in the elegant lobby bar at Arena.

Great Evening in Dupont Circle: A picture worth a few thousand words

Dinner: Floriana 1602 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (202) 667-5937

Show: Theater J’s Body of an American performs Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun, Apr 27 – May 29. Top ticket price $72. 1529 Sixteenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20036. Enter on Q St. Make sure to have a photo ID along. Box office: 202-777-3210,

Drinks: Hank’s Oyster Bar 1624 Q St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Great Evening in Crystal City, Va.: Derring-do below ground

Dinner: Jaleo 2250 Crystal Dr, Arlington, VA 22202 (703) 413-8181

Show: Synetic Theater’s The Man in the Iron Mask plays Wed-Sat, May 11 – Jun 19. Top ticket price $50. 1800 South Bell Street, Crystal City, VA 22202. Box office: 866-811-4111,

Drinks: Bell 20 Tavern 1999 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Arlington, VA 22202

Great Evening in the U St Corridor: A playful evening

Dinner: El Centro 1819 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (202) 328-3131

Show: Spooky Action Theatre’s Happy Hour 1810 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009. Box office: 202-248-0301,

Drinks: Tico 1926 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Great Evening in Petworth: Drink, Drink and be merry

Dinner: Chez Billy 3815 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011. (202) 506-2080

Show: LIVEartDC’s The Merry Death of Robin Hood performs Thurs and Sat, May 19 – June 11. Top ticket price $20.  LIVEartDC at DC Reynolds 3628 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010 Box office:

Drinks: Stay at DC Reynolds for drinks after.



Isn’t the restaurant key to a Great Evening Out?

Just last night, we went out to scout a new potential restaurant for one of our Washington Great Evenings Out.  It is close to a super entertainment venue we send people to all the time, and the food gets really strong reviews from our friends.  Sadly for us, though the meal was decent, the restaurant didn’t make the cut for sharing with you, our discerning and fun-loving readers.  But trying it out gave us an opportunity to reflect on an important question:

What qualifications make a restaurant fit into a great evening out?

 Food Above All, but what else?

Obviously, the food has to be full of top-notch ingredients, well prepared, and enticingly presented.  When the cuisine provides some kind of connection with the entertainment — theater, music, etc. — elements of the evening, that earns it bonus points in our book, for helping to set the mood and spice up the conversation.  You want a broad spectrum of good drinks, because it matters when different people at the table prefer different things.  These are all factors in choosing a great restaurant meal on a special evening out.

It’s also key that the setting and décor create some sense of occasion.  When walking in to a place helps you feel like you’re making an entrance on stage yourself, we start to get interested.  Attentive service that welcomes you warmly and respects your time, then makes everyone at each table feel as though they are the only table in the place, makes so much difference.  It’s quite a trick to treat every table as though they are the table that the cameras are focused on, while everyone else is pleasant background, but the best places manage it.  DC is getting better and better at this “it” factor and in the nicest places we recommend, you’ll find it in spades.

Why The Best Matters

All these components combine to let you and your companions experience each other in the best possible light, and form or renew connections that will permit you all to have a great time together.  Naturally, you’re having dinner in part so that your hunger is satisfied and you can really enjoy the rest of your evening’s entertainments; but in the right kind of place, dinner can function as a ceremonial invocation to conviviality and fun so they will follow you throughout the evening.  That kind of dinner launches a great evening.

What do you think?

We’d love to hear your ideas about what makes a great dinner out.  What other characteristics do you see in the restaurants that are extraordinary in your life?  Please tell us about some of your favorite restaurants, either here in DC or wherever you are from.  You can reach us at or add comments below to this post.